According to the Criminal Code of Procedure (CrPC) of Bangladesh section 401 (1), a government can temporarily postpone the penalty of any imprisoned criminal if they want. Based on this rule, the current Bangladesh Government has released BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia after 776 days. The government, through an executive order to release her for six months on conditions.
On the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case, the BNP chief was sent to jail on February 08, 2018. The special court sentenced her in prison for five years in the case. Then she got another sentence for ten years of imprisonment on the matter of October 30, 2018, on Zia Charitable Trust Case. In total, she got 17 years of imprisonment in two different cases. There are 35 more cases against her name, which are under the trail.
After she was sent to prison, party leaders have threatened to take on the streets and fight legally to release her. After the party leaders have failed, the family members have urged the government to release her on bail. There were three different ways (bail, parole, and temporary postpone of punishment) government was considering to release her.
However, there was no indication of her release until she was released because AL was trying to take political advantage of the issue. Until the COVID-19 crisis in the world and Bangladesh, AL published her on ‘humanitarian’ ground. And they think it is their political victory.
With her release, she was given two conditions. First, she will have to take treatment in the house, not in any hospital, and second, she cannot leave the country. AL sees this release as the political failure of BNP. Besides, they cannot celebrate their party chief because of the COVID-19 outbreak and the countrywide restrictions on public gathering.
Besides, even if Khaleda wants to resume her political activities, she cannot do politics due to her and participants’ health safety. Likewise, also, if she wants to leave the country, she cannot because most of the air traveling routes closed, and it will be risky for her health.
Many prominent leaders from AL thinks that their party leader Sheikh Hasina arranged Khaleda’s release from a humanitarian mindset. This element is quite rare in the polity of Bangladesh. We have always seen confrontational and jealousy in the politics of Bangladesh.
The case Khaleda Zia got punishment for was filed by Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) during the last Military backed Care-Taker government. During that time, under the direction of people who were leading the government, ACC would selectively set their campaign against the political leaders. AL leaders were also the target of the ACC, but after AL came to power, cases against their (AL) leaders withdrawn under political consideration. However, BNP leaders didn’t quite go through this consideration. Now they are facing lawsuits, trail, and penalty.
The latter is better than never. Now the AL government is showing their humanity for the BNP party chief. BNP, as a party, failed to do anything for their leader. And at that moment, the AL party chief and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came forward and gave an executive order to release her. It is one of a kind for many years in the history of Bangladesh. One of the many humanitarian examples Hasina established in her regimes.
We hope now BNP will also think about humanity in the politics of Bangladesh and establish new examples. We remember the ‘Hartal’ and ‘strike’ by BNP in previous times. During that time, we have seen the destruction of public property and citizens’ harassment. Besides, the ‘petrol bomb.’ We hope BNP will now try to understand the public demand and take initiatives to help the general citizens.
Now the country is going through a critical time due to the COVID-19 outbreak. And BNP as a party, we have not seen any fruitful initiatives. We believe they can start with protecting the citizens of the country from this dangerous virus for making new humanitarian examples.
(The different sources of information acknowledged with gratitude)
The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration, Comilla University, Bangladesh. He can be reached at, firstname.lastname@example.org